Okay, this week we read chapter three. It wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be, which was a disappointment. I did find some nuggets that will help me in developing myself as a social justice educator. One of the first things the author said was that she struggles with her identity as a social justice educator. And that made me feel so much better, because I struggle with my identity as a social justice educator too. I just feel like I don't know enough. There's so much to learn, and I don't nearly feel like I know what to be doing yet. It's much easier to teach one person at a time, I think, than to take on a whole group. There are so many pitfalls that way... And what happens when one person pisses another person off? Do we let them be angry at each other, and say mean things, do we try to control the discussion, what happens when we as facilitators get pissed off? I feel like a newborn when it comes to facilitation, and it makes me nervous.
Another thing I realized is that when people get emotional in this type of setting (during a workshop or meeting), it can sometimes be a beneficial thing. But it can also create an adversarial relationship between two people or two groups. This is especially difficult when someone gets angry. In most groups, this anger finds a target in someone of another group identity. For example, the black man may be angry with the white man who has just struggled to admit he has been oppressive before. Or the black woman may be angry with the black man who has just discovered that he thinks women are the weaker sex. (It's amazing the things you can realize during a training, workshop, or meeting. It was hard for me to realize that by not figting oppression where I found it, I was contributing to the status quo.) So in some ways, emotions (even anger) can be a good thing. In other ways, not so much. And the difference is in the people involved in the workshop. A statement in one workshop could be completely unchallenged, where with another group of participants, it could be like setting gasoline on fire.
One other thing I think is important. The author brought up a very interesting point. Every culture seems to think their standards for non verbal communication are universal. But they aren't. In the US, we make eye contact a lot with our bosses and coworkers. In Asian countries, this would be considered an insult. So when an American boss meets her Asian counterpart, she thinks he is untrustworthy because Asians do not make direct eye contact. And the Asian feels insulted that the American keeps trying to make eye contact. Neither is true, but the PERCEPTION is really all that matters. The Asian goes back to his colleagues and tells how rude the American was, while the American goes back to her colleagues and says the Asian was untrustworthy. In our communications across differences, it is best to talk about these types of things. If someone of another culture is speaking and says something verbally offensive or whose actions are offensive, it's best to ask if they know that what they said/asked/acted is offensive to you. It's hard to ask that type of question though. Or, if the person is drawing away and not wanting to talk to you any longer, maybe you can ask if you've offended them somehow. If we reach out instead of pulling back, we can learn about our neighbors in ways that empowers them - and us - to be better global citizens.